Sunday, 18 March 2018

Cintra Park - A View From "The Whitley Pump"

Reproduced below is a recent post from "The Whitley Pump" . I'm sure the author will be pleased to hear that more investment is planned for Cintra Park in the future.

Cintra Park

The avenue at Cintra Park
Reading’s Cintra Park is a world away from how it was even five years ago. Some ‘orrible kids, dog mess, violence and drugs weren’t uncommon. My cricket team and I even found a shotgun cartridge in the outfield when playing a game one evening.
Reading Borough Council have made great efforts since those dark days and the transformation has been immense. Environmental measures including wildflower earth banks and some prudent tree planting have improved biodiversity and the park is an excellent place to hear birdsong at dusk and dawn. The council took out some dark and dangerous corners and added a great flat path all the way round of exactly one kilometre distance to encourage walkers, runners, push chairs and wheelchairs alike. The long avenue of small pollarded trees on the Christchurch Road side is delightful in spring and summer.
The play equipment is varied, adventurous and great for kids. I must admit to having a quick go on the swings myself now and again for some after-work stress busting. The council also added outdoor gym equipment but this mostly consists of monkey bars and odd benches. It all looks like torture equipment to me, but it is well used. The park is self-draining and often remains in use while other football and cricket matches have been called off waterlogged.
Benches at Cintra Park
The pavilion and changing room building has acted as a youth club and community beacon for years and has recently attracted attention as a home for three local cooks. I have yet to sample the food but the function facilities have supported a café and is a good spot for pensioners’ teas too.
There are also historical echoes with some lovely old iron gates with pillars near Warwick Road and an avenue of evergreens at Christchurch Green that must have been a drive to the old house that belonged to the Sutton Seeds family.  What, if anything, connects the park to the town of Sintra in Portugal or the convention of Cintraremains a mystery.
Cintra park at dusk
The park exists on a plateau and if the magnificent line of massive oaks were ever removed (which we hope will never happen) there would be a handsome grand view of south Reading.  Cintra Park is a common treasury for all to enjoy and a great example of why we should never abandon hope for our green spaces, but instead invest our time, effort and money in improving and making these treasures truly inclusive.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Secondary School Places In Reading - Tonight's Meeting At Micklands

Thanks to everyone who attended tonight’s meeting at Micklands Primary School to discuss the allocation of secondary schools places in Reading.

Here are some notes of the question and answer session:

Will there be any chance that our local schools could increase their intake for this year Sept 2018?
For secondary school admissions, the DFE will only recognise Reading as one place planning area, rather than recognising sub groups within the borough. Therefore the local authority does not have the ability to increase school planned admission limits where there is sufficient capacity within the system, which currently, there is.    
It is not unusual for students in a borough of this size to travel across the area to schools of their choice, for example for independent or selective schools which will draw from a wide area.

How has this happened knowing 2007 was a bulk year. Primary schools in the area increased as well as expanded to take on the demand, so why didn’t secondary schools follow and plans made for an extra secondary school to be built as Reading Borough council only have one secondary school north side of reading?
A full place sufficiency analysis was undertaken by the Head of Education and School Services Manager last summer and, from this, there was not deemed to be additional secondary places needed for this year and indeed not for two years yet. It is acknowledged that we will need to extend secondary places from 2020, and indeed are looking at increasing availability of secondary places from that time with both additional capacity at Chiltern Edge, and a new secondary school, location to be decided. No decision has been made on the siting of the new secondary school which will be operated by an academy trust. However, several sites are currently being investigated;
As there are sufficient places in the borough, this has been accounted for in planning projections.
Chiltern Edge has reduced its PAN but the school was undersubscribed, perhaps due to the uncertainty. However, its future is now secure and it is being academised by Maiden Erlegh Trust.

 How will this be prevented for bulk years in the future?
We are working on looking at sub regions within the borough for planning purposes for secondary school admissions in the future. However, this change in the way we plan secondary school sufficiency has to be approved by the DFE. At the moment, they have not given approval for Reading borough to consider secondary school provision other than as one borough and not as sub regions within the borough. Therefore we must currently consider sufficiency in the borough as a whole.  RBC were instrumental in keeping Chiltern Edge open, which is also a designated area school for RG4 residents.

7yrs ago, at the time of the bulge year creation, there was a Labour Councillor (Cllr Ennis) lead for Education at RBC and a Conservative MP. Other parts of Reading have expanded their Secondary provision e.g. Wren. Why did you not plan for our children?
RBC were instrumental in keeping Chiltern Edge open, which is also a designated area school for RG4 residents. There was a strong push from Reading borough to stop the closure of Chiltern Edge and our efforts were instrumental in securing the school for the future.

Highdown offered in May 2017 to create extra places for 2018/19 entry in response to pupil number increase. Why was this agreed at the School Forum but overruled by the LA ?
Schools Forum does not make decisions on school places and school place planning. School Admissions Forum only makes decisions on policy and not on practical issues of this nature. 

Why has part of the £1m school growth fund for 2018/19 not been allocated to an extra Highdown class this year? It includes the expansion of one Secondary School. Why is it not Highdown?
We have sufficient places in the authority this year and the growth fund is there to support the need for additional places overall. As we have sufficient places this year in the authority there is no need to build in additional school places right now. The major growth in secondary school places comes in the next 5 years and the growth fund will when be used we require the additional places in the authority.

If, as the Reading Chronicle suggests, there are plans for more places for 2019/20, how is this fair on our children and how are you going to help?
There are sufficient places for children for the 2018 school year but projections suggest not for 2019/20. This is not a question of fairness, but of the statutory duty on the local authority to provide a school place for all children in the borough.

In the RBC Meeting 24/5/2017, Section 2.9 part I, said that a Schools Admission Forum would be set up for the Municipal Year 2017/18.  Was it set up and what did they decide regarding the 2018/19 North Reading over subscription problem. What were their recommendations?
Reading Borough Council were instrumental in keeping Chiltern Edge open, which has alleviated the pressures which could have occurred, should it have closed. Overall place planning has considered longer term requirement coming into place in 2019 onwards.

What effect do you think isolation from his Caversham friends and the other pupils in Prospect will have on my Son?
This is a point for an appeal panel. This information can be sent to Highdown as medical/social but it isn’t for the admissions team to decide.

How many Thameside, St.Annes and Micklands yr6 children have been allocated a school south of the river that is not their first or second choice?
We do not have this data. It can be provided as part of an FOI but it is not relevant to the Highdown issue. Not all parents in Caversham have listed Highdown, or could have listed other schools. The number diverted has been provided. School attended is not indicative of a child’s address.

How were places allocated this year as certain schools intake was lower than previous years. And the distance of the last place offered decreased by a lot for Highdown compared to previous years?
Places were allocated in the same way. The last distance offered this year was 1.017, in 2017 this was 1.545 from the school, in 2016 it was 1.364 but the PAN was 30 lass at 229.

What are my options now as I rejected her allocated place and knowing all local schools waiting list are extremely high and I'm unwilling to allow my daughter to travel to the other side of town?
We will not remove the allocated space, even if it is rejected unless you have a confirmed place elsewhere because the LA has a duty to offer a school place. You are free to submit a late application and list for any additional schools for which you would like to be considered.

How will the waiting list work?
Places will be allocated from the waiting list from 15th March. They will be allocated in accordance with the schools oversubscription criteria, not related to whether they have been diverted. This is in line with the school admissions code 2014.

Did all 250 students that got into Highdown put Highdown as their first choice or were any of the students randomly given a place there like we were randomly given a place at schools the other side of Reading that weren't any of our choices?
All students who were allocated a place listed it as a preference. It is not relevant where this was listed as some may have been hoping for Grammar schools or other schools. Applications are considered on an equal preference basis.

More will be published in the days ahead, after 15th March and an offer to meet parents again in April was made at tonight's meeting.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Rachel Eden - the next MP for Reading West

Alok Sharma should make the most of the time he has left as the MP for Reading West. This is what the future looks like ...